Bobby Flay is always up for a challenge: He has filmed more than 500 episodes of his competition show Beat Bobby Flay, and after facing off against some of the country’s best chefs — and trying to one-up them on their own signature dishes — he now has a lot of recipes and tricks in his arsenal. In his latest cookbook you’ll find many of his winning recipes, along with plenty from the chefs who beat him. “Some of the recipes are memorable for being challenging, some for being surprising and some for giving me the opportunity to cook with my favorite ingredients alongside good friends and some of the best chefs in the business,” he says. These eggplant rollatini are a perfect example: He made the dish during season 18 in a battle with chef and cheese guru Tracey Shepos Cenami, and he won with the help of his anchovy panko breadcrumbs. Try them yourself!
Arrange the eggplant in an even layer on two sheet pans. Brush both sides with 6 tablespoons of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until lightly golden brown and very tender, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. (The eggplant can be cooked up to 1 day in advance, cooled and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.) Reduce the oven temperature to 375˚ F.
Meanwhile, make the sauce: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the tomatoes with their juices and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook until the tomatoes begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Crush the tomatoes with a potato masher. Add the chile paste and basil and cook the sauce until it thickens, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Make the filling: Mix together the ricotta, egg, diced mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the Pecorino in a medium bowl until combined. Season with salt and pepper and fold in the parsley and oregano.
Ladle 1 cup of the sauce into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Spread 2 tablespoons of the cheese filling over each eggplant slice. Carefully roll up and place them, seam-side down, in the baking dish. Once all the eggplant rolls are in the dish, ladle another cup of the sauce evenly over them and sprinkle the grated mozzarella and remaining 1/2 cup Pecorino over the top.
Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese has melted and turned lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and garnish with torn basil, if desired.
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the anchovies and cook until dissolved, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Add the panko and spread into an even layer. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip the crumbs, press them into an even layer again and cook until the bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes longer. Add the lemon zest and season with pepper and more salt, if desired.
Spread on a large plate or sheet pan and let cool. Store, tightly covered, in a cool, dry place for 1 day, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Re-crisp in a dry skillet over low heat before using.